Just before the 2019 trade deadline, the Toronto Raptors acquired Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies, hoping that he would be the final piece of a championship-worthy puzzle. On their way to their first title in franchise history, they outlasted the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, who had made playoff-focused moves of their own at the deadline, acquiring Tobias Harris and Nikola Mirotic, respectively.
This time around, we might not see the same level of activity. Deadline-day moves that actually affect the outcome of the season are rare, which is why the Detroit Pistons‘ acquisition of Rasheed Wallace in 2004 and the Houston Rockets‘ acquisition of Clyde Drexler in 1995 are seen as legendary.
The Gasol move, however, should serve as a reminder of what is possible. As the Feb. 6 deadline approaches, every contender and fringe contender will be trying to improve its roster with the playoffs in mind. The same might be true of teams that are trying to make the playoffs, although the races at the bottom of each conference are not particularly inspiring at the moment.
Given how limited most contenders are in terms of tradeable contracts, and given how few toxic deals remain on the market, executives will have to get creative to get anything substantial done. But hey, no one saw the Bucks’ offer for Mirotic — four second-round picks — coming this time last year. Here is an exhaustive list of names worth thinking about, along with what you need to know about each player’s situation:
The most relevant, most tradeable names to know
Typically, a player of Gallinari’s caliber would fetch a first-round pick near the deadline. He can play both forward spots, can score in all sorts of ways and doesn’t kill you defensively. He is also 31 and on an expiring contract, so he is of little use to Oklahoma City beyond this season. If the offers aren’t acceptable, the Thunder could just keep him and hope to work out a sign-and-trade.
There is no shortage of evidence that Iguodala is valuable in a playoff series, even though he will be 36 at the end of January. The question is whether he will end up playing alongside superstars in Los Angeles or matched up with those superstars on the other side. Memphis is determined to trade him rather than buy out his $17.2 million contract.
You can’t pay everybody, and the Kings decided to pay Harrison Barnes last summer and Buddy Hield at the beginning of this season. This could get in the way of them retaining Bogdanovic in restricted free agency in the summer. He is overqualified for the role he has now, and I can think of a couple of Eastern Conference contenders that could use his combination of shooting and playmaking. There is nothing, however, stopping the Kings from holding onto him, re-signing him and figuring the rest out later.
Morris isn’t quite shooting 50 percent from 3-point range anymore, but he has still presumably raised his trade value with his marksmanship — he might even be able to return a first-round pick. Unlike many of the other Knicks on short-term contracts, though, Marcus is on a straight one-year deal and would be strictly a rental.
Finally in the last season of the bargain contract he signed in Boston, Crowder’s $7.8 million salary could be packaged with Iguodala or traded in a separate deal. He is known as a tough 3-and-D guy, although he hasn’t shot 3s all that accurately outside of his fantastic 2016-17 season.
The only surprising part of Dedmon’s trade request is that he said it on the record. He has found himself on the outside of the Kings’ crowded frontcourt rotation, but he showed last season in Atlanta that he can space the floor and protect the rim, a nice combination these days. The 30-year-old is in Year One of a three-year, $40 million deal.
The big names who will be functionally difficult to move
Paul has been brilliant for the Thunder, and his play so far this season should have eased short-term concerns about age- and injury-related decline. Still, he is a 34-year-old point guard who is making $38.5 million this season and will make $44.2 million in 2021-22. It would take a bold front office — and perhaps a desperate one — to put together a realistic trade package for him.
It’s almost impossible to imagine the 31-year-old staying with the Cavaliers for the duration of his contract, which has three years and $91.5 million remaining after this season. It is trickier than you’d think, though, to identify teams that can take on his $28.9 million salary and convince themselves that he is the missing piece. Ideally, he would be a starting center next to a rim-protecting power forward, playing in games that matter again.
DeRozan has never shot better from midrange than this season, but he has contributed to the Spurs‘ terrible defense and he’s still turning down open 3s. San Antonio is in not exactly rebuilding and nowhere near contention. Logic dictates that the 30-year-old would be available, but young teams won’t want him, contenders will be wary of his weaknesses and his $27.7M player option for next season complicates everything.
On New Year’s Day, Aldridge’s $24 million 2020-21 salary became fully guaranteed. That’s a hefty price tag, especially with his defense declining. Unlike DeRozan, though, Aldridge is finally shooting 3s this season, and while the volume is still pretty low, he has made 40 percent of them. One big question: How much do the Spurs care about making the playoffs in the top-heavy West?
The real question here is whether or not Drummond can get the payday he wants in free agency. If there isn’t a max deal out there for him, his best path might be picking up his $28.7 million player option so that potential trade partners know he won’t just be a rental. Drummond’s box-score stats are ridiculous, but averaging around 18 and 16 doesn’t go as far as it used to if you aren’t also dominating defensively, too.
The case for trading Griffin is that Detroit should just blow it all up and start over. He has been banged up lately, and he hasn’t been the same since the knee injury that sidelined him for the beginning of the Pistons’ first-round series last April. If they decide to shop him, I wonder if there is any team out there willing to overlook his struggles this season and his injury history and make a bet on him getting back to last year’s level of production.
The not-quite-as-big names who will be functionally difficult to move
Thompson will turn 29 in March, and he will be a free agent in July. Neither of these facts bodes well for his long-term future with the team that drafted him. The low-usage, defense-first center makes sense as a rental for a playoff team that needs more oomph on the inside, but his $18.5 million salary is an obstacle to completing a deal. While conventional wisdom dictates that it is unwise to give up much for a player who can walk in a few months, perhaps teams that don’t have cap space next summer will value his Bird rights.
Who’s looking to acquire a non-star center making $27.5 million next season? The answer might be nobody, and Adams’ 7.5 percent trade kicker doesn’t help matters. Nevertheless, he is an interesting name because he’s 26 years old and it’s easy to say that teams like the Celtics and Clippers could use him.
Given how he transformed the Raptors with his defense and passing last season, suitors don’t have to be particularly imaginative to picture him raising another team’s ceiling. It does take some creativity, however, to come up with anything approaching a logical trade for him — he would only make sense on a championship hopeful, and there isn’t a championship hopeful that can easily accommodate his $25.6 million expiring contract.
At $23.2 million, Ibaka makes a little less than Gasol, and he might also be viewed as less essential to the Raptors’ short-term identity. Even if Toronto was willing to move him, though, the market presents the same hurdle.
Teague has taken well to his new role as a reserve, but the Wolves likely aren’t dying to re-sign the 31-year-old guard next summer. He’d make so much sense in a place like Philadelphia, but his $19 million contract is an impediment.
Kuzma’s Christmas Day outburst notwithstanding, the 24-year-old forward has been an awkward fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, especially because the latter does not want to play center. The problem is that, with a $2 million salary, he is an equally awkward fit on the trade market: Moving him for a guard would be ideal, but that guard would have to be good and cheap.
Another theoretical trade candidate, Valanciunas is a good bet to be moved during the life of his contract, which declines in salary over the next couple of seasons. He is a strong offensive player and rebounder, but there are concerns about his ability to stay on the floor against the league’s best teams in the playoffs, so I’d be surprised if he were moved in this market.
‘I wonder if they’d actually trade this guy’
The reasons not to trade Lowry are simple: He’s the greatest Raptor ever, he is having another All-Star-caliber season and Toronto has played well enough to be confident it can make a deep run in the playoffs. Everyone has a price, though, and maybe there is a team out there that can offer the Raptors the kind of deal that they can’t turn down.
VanVleet’s bet on himself is about to pay off, and the only reason the Raptors should even consider trading him is if they think it will pay off too handsomely. He will be 26 in the summer, young enough for a rebuilding team to throw a ton of money at him. Of the five rebuilding teams that can easily have max cap space, only New York needs a point guard, but VanVleet has proven he can defend shooting guards and play off the ball.
Everybody wants Bertans, who is shooting only slightly better in Washington than he did in San Antonio but has done it while shooting from absolutely everywhere, contested or not. Bertans is one of the best shooters in the game, and the Wizards should be in no rush to trade him unless they are completely blown away by an offer or they get the impression they won’t have a chance to retain him when he hits unrestricted free agency in July.
Fournier might have the highest production-to-hype ratio of anyone in the NBA this season, inheriting the title from teammate Nikola Vucevic. The 27-year-old guard is averaging a career-high 19.5 points, launching 3s more frequently and more accurately than ever before. The Magic are in a tough spot, though, because he can be a free agent this summer and they already have an expensive roster.
If the Pelicans have their sights set on the playoffs, Favors isn’t going anywhere. He has stabilized their defense, and he was acquired in part to set an example for their young players. If winning becomes less of a priority, though, New Orleans could turn into a seller, and Favors, who is on a $16 million expiring contract, would become a fascinating trade piece.
Redick is in the same situation as Favors, except he is owed $13 million next season. He has been incredible for the Pelicans’ offense, and he sets an example for their young players with the way he approaches the game. He is on this list to account for the possibility that New Orleans shifts into sell mode.
Would the Knicks punt on the Randle experiment before the first year is over? I’m not saying it’s likely, but I wonder if they’d consider it. Randle has started to salvage what looked like a disastrous season, and potential suitors might think his salary will be worth it outside of New York’s cramped offensive environment. He signed a three-year, $62.1 million deal, but only $4 million of the third season is guaranteed.
Covington hasn’t had quite the same impact on defense this season as he has in the past, but it’s probably unfair to expect any forward to make up for all the mistakes happening around him. The Wolves keep falling in the standings, and Covington’s $11.3 million salary is their best trade piece. Moving him, however, risks upsetting their franchise player — Karl-Anthony Towns and Covington are close.
Russell remains a divisive player despite his All-Star selection, his max contract and his semi-regular scoring explosions. If the Warriors believe that he can become more efficient and improve defensively, maybe he will fit just fine when the Splash Brothers are back. There were good reasons, though, that trade rumors started the moment that Golden State acquired him.
What a conundrum. Wiggins has done much of what the Wolves wanted him to do this season, improving his shot selection and decision-making and generally appearing more engaged than he had in the last couple of seasons. His contract was thought to be as close to untradeable as it gets mere months ago, but that’s probably not the case anymore. Minnesota must weigh the flexibility it could get from moving him against the possibility that he could keep growing if it keeps working with him.
In his five-year career, Winslow has started at center in the playoffs and started at point guard for significant stretches in the regular season. He can guard almost anybody, and he has made massive strides as a playmaker. He’s been hurt this season, though, and his shooting has regressed. At 23, he is in the first year of a three-year rookie extension, making $13 million a season, and there is a team option on the third year. Since Miami has traded so many future picks, any major trade it makes would almost have to include Winslow.
The Heat almost traded Dragic in the summer, and then they moved him to the bench, where he has had his best season in a few years (when healthy). His $19.2 million contract is expiring, and while Miami doesn’t necessarily need to make any moves, its front office is fond of star-hunting.
That he’s on this list is a credit to him: Harris is the kind of player every team wants, a dead-eye shooter who can attack closeouts and makes few mistakes. He is underpaid at $7.7 million, but that won’t be the case for long, as he will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. Given that he loves Brooklyn and would be an ideal complementary player next to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, it is tempting to assume that the franchise will pay whatever it takes to keep him. That could happen, but the luxury tax will be an issue.
Phoenix should not trade Baynes if it cares about getting its season on the right track. But maybe it shouldn’t care about this season. The Suns could not sustain their strong start, and Baynes plays the same position as Deandre Ayton. They need to figure out how much they are willing to pay to potentially re-sign Baynes, the likelihood that he will want to stay and how much they value whatever they can get back for him in a trade.
Saric has been generally solid for the Suns, at least before his recent leg injury, but it is unclear if he has done enough for them to retain him in restricted free agency. There hasn’t been much buzz about the forward, aside from speculation about a Kevin Love deal, but he’s worth monitoring.
Harrell is in a similar position to VanVleet, in that he is a wildly productive player who will be 26 next summer and eligible for a massive raise. If the Clippers don’t think they can keep him on a reasonable salary, then trading him might make sense, especially if they are able to strengthen their frontcourt defense in the process. Presumably, though, it would take an extremely compelling offer to get them to break up the Lou Williams-Harrell pick-and-roll combo.
Need a vet in the frontcourt?
It just hasn’t worked for Young in Chicago’s new offense, but there’s no reason the 31-year-old can’t be as productive as he was with the Pacers last season if he were given a similar role. Still an excellent defender, the Bulls had the right idea when they signed him, but integrating him into their system has been another story.
DeRozan and Aldridge get more attention, but the 33-year-old Gay is far easier to acquire because he only makes $14.5 million. Teams are always looking for big, versatile forwards, and Gay isn’t even a rental — he has another year on his contract at the same number.
Yet another defensive-minded Grizzlies vet, the 28-year-old Hill has played a key role this season, but would be of more use on a win-now team. Suitors might not trust his hot 3-point shooting, though, and with a $12.8 million expiring contract, his contract is tougher to absorb than Crowder’s.
Williams continues to age gracefully in Charlotte, making 39 percent of his 3s while playing fewer minutes than ever before and a significant chunk of them as a smallball center. As valuable as he is in the Hornets‘ locker room, they would have to consider moving him if contenders are lining up to rent him. (Contenders are likely hoping he’ll be bought out.)
Gibson is tradeable on account of his contract — $9 million this year, $9.5 million next year if the team wants to keep him — and his track record. His numbers with the Knicks don’t look good, but that shouldn’t scare away teams looking for defensive help in the frontcourt.
The Thunder didn’t know they were going to trade Paul George and Russell Westbrook when they negotiated a two-year, $4.3 million deal with him last summer. He has a player option for the second season, and if Oklahoma City wants to get out of the luxury tax, it would make sense to dump him.
Need a vet in the backcourt?
If the Pistons decide they aren’t going anywhere and need to rebuild, Rose could actually get them something worthwhile in return. He’s only owed $7.3 million this year and $7.7 million next year, and he has been efficient running pick-and-rolls.
Another Detroit guard, the 28-year-old Galloway has quietly had a career season, thanks to improved 3-point shooting and finishing around the rim. The Pistons signed him with the mid-level exception (MLE) three years ago, so his $7.3 million expiring salary is easy to match for teams seeking short-term backcourt help.
Do the Spurs value Mills’ experience and institutional knowledge more than whatever they can get for him on the trade market? He is under contract for another season, so San Antonio shouldn’t be in a rush to move him, but he is also 31 years old on a team with a bunch of young guards on the roster.
As Moore showed in a 25-point outburst against Houston in late December, he is a capable microwave scorer. He is also floater artist who has shot better than 42 percent from deep in the last three seasons, but New Orleans has so much depth that he has received 12 DNP-CDs this year. The 30-year-old is making $8.7 million and is on an expiring contract.
Given that Ellington was bought out last season, teams that covet him might just wait and see if that happens again. New York has little incentive to do that, though, given that he can help its young players by spacing the floor. The veteran is effectively on an $8 million expiring contract, as his 2020-21 salary is fully non-guaranteed.
Someone has to score in Golden State, and Burks has done that, averaging a career-high 15.9 points with decent efficiency. He might be superfluous when the Warriors get healthy, though, and they need to clear roster spots if they want to keep Damion Lee and Ky Bowman once they’ve used all their two-way days.
Bullock returned from injury on New Year’s Day, and he gives the Knicks some much-needed shooting. In the big picture, though, he might be more valuable to them as a trade chip. They signed him with the room exception, and only $1 million of his $4.2 million 2020-21 salary is guaranteed.
Not quite a vet, yet
He’s on this list every year, a product of his declining contract and the Magic’s crowded frontcourt. There is still plenty of upside in the 24-year-old forward, but his drop in efficiency this season cannot be good for his trade value. There are few players in the league I am more eager to see get a fresh start.
Payton’s shooting percentages are awful, but his on/off numbers make him look like a superstar. Payton has made the Knicks much more competent on offense, and he is on a team-friendly contract, making $8 million this season and another $8 million next season if not waived by late June. Guards that don’t space the floor are not exactly hot commodities, but his playmaking could be attractive to the right team.
Catch Portis on the right night and you might wonder why he only averages 21.5 minutes and isn’t thought of more highly. He is an extremely streaky offensive player, though, and his approach to defense is laissez-faire.
Memphis signed Anderson to a four-year deal in 2018 for the MLE, and his $9.1 million salary is tradeable, even with a 15 percent trade kicker. At 26, he isn’t so old that he doesn’t fit with the Grizzlies’ young core, but he isn’t exactly a part of the core, either. He is only averaging 18.3 minutes this season.
Moving him would help the Raptors clear cap space for 2021, but if Powell has another season like this next year, maybe he will decline his $11.6 million player option in 2021-22 anyway. It’s a bit complicated because his speed, shooting and ability to attack the rim remain useful in Toronto, and he was having a career year before his shoulder injury.
Schroder is averaging 18.4 points as part of Oklahoma City’s wacky guard rotation, and his playmaking would be a nice addition to several contenders. It will be tricky, though, for any of those contenders to take on his $15.5 million salary without doing something drastic.
Parker might have played well enough in Atlanta to get himself traded, having cut down on his long 2s and assumed more offensive responsibility than the team planned when it signed him to a two-year, $13 million deal. There are still concerns about his defense, decision-making and his spot-up shooting, but this version of Parker is interesting to imagine in a different context.
Beasley’s role has been fluid this season, to the point where sometimes he isn’t even in the rotation. He will be a restricted free agent next summer, and if the Nuggets want to make an upgrade on the wing, he could be one of the players who has to go.
Hernangomez plays a different position than Beasley, but they are in a similar position. Hernangomez’s efficiency has dipped even more than Beasley’s, though, so his trade value has likely never been lower.
A third Nugget dealing with a demotion, Craig started 37 games last season and now sometimes gets DNP-CDs. He is a tough defender, but it’s hard to maintain a 3-and-D reputation if you’re shooting 30.7 percent from deep for your career.
Dunn’s career could go so many ways. He is an awesome defender, and he will have a long and productive career if he ever becomes a reliable spot-up shooter. As long as teams can ignore him off the ball, though, investing in him is risky. If Chicago does not want to have to make a difficult decision about an offer sheet in July, it could simply try to move him before then.
Forbes has started every game for the Spurs this season because of his shooting ability, but he is often overmatched defensively and he will be an unrestricted free agent in July. San Antonio has lots of decisions to make when it comes to its backcourt, so Forbes’ future is uncertain.
The Bulls have needed Valentine’s 3-point shooting and secondary playmaking off the bench without Otto Porter, but that doesn’t mean they’re planning on bringing the 26-year-old back in restricted free agency. He could be a cheap target for a team in need of wing help.
‘Sure, let’s take a flier on him’
Trier has been marginalized in his second season, so developing him does not seem to be New York’s priority. He is a gifted scorer, and he can have a role in this league if he rounds out his game, either with the Knicks or elsewhere.
Maybe the Raptors will be buyers instead of sellers. What could they get for Johnson and a future pick? What about Johnson, a pick and someone like Patrick McCaw? It feels damning that Johnson has been in the doghouse all season, but he’s still 23 with good physical tools. Another front office could give him another shot in a no-risk scenario.
I am aware that it is weird to argue that teams should try to acquire a player who warmed the bench for last season’s Knicks and this season’s Bulls, but here we go: Kornet has shown an ability to space the floor and use his size around the rim, and those two attributes make him an intriguing buy-low target.
The Kings declined Giles’ fourth-year option, and they’ve barely used him this season until recently. It feels weird to call him a second-draft guy already, but he is a buy-low candidate if Sacramento has decided to move on.
After a strong rookie season, Kurucs has been in and out of the rotation in Brooklyn and spent significant time in the G League. He is getting minutes again after David Nwaba’s season-ending injury, but that doesn’t mean he is a part of the Nets‘ long-term future.
Contracts worth mentioning
The guard has essentially been banished from the Heat, and the whole league knows they want to be rid of his contract, which has a year remaining at $12.7 million. If it were easy to trade him, they would have done it already, but perhaps he can be flipped as part of a larger deal or flipped for another undesirable contract.
With the Bismack Biyombo, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist contracts coming off the books, the Hornets don’t need to be desperate to trade Batum, who will make $27.1 million next season. He is surely available, however.
Another perpetual trade-block guy, Jackson is on an $18.1 million expiring contract. Injuries have ruined his tenure in Detroit, and he has only appeared in two games this season because of a stress reaction in his lower back.
Bazemore is one of Portland’s few competent defenders, but the team is in rough shape and the front office might want to make a big splash. Moving his $19.3 million deal could be a part of that.
If the Blazers think they’re getting Jusuf Nurkic in the relatively near future, or if they decide to give up on the season, then Whiteside is unnecessary on this roster. His value will not be high, but his expiring $27 million deal could be used to facilitate a major move.
Atlanta has several players on big expiring contracts; Crabbe’s shooting makes him the most likely of them to be moved. Playoff teams are probably hoping the Hawks will buy out his $18.5 million salary so they don’t have to give up anything for him.
His infamous summer-of-2016 contract about to expire, and the $19.2 million man has been unable to hold down a steady spot in Phoenix’s guard rotation. The Suns could move Johnson if they have designs on an expensive trade target.
Lee almost never sees the floor outside of blowouts, and his $12 million expiring salary could be packaged with another rotation player if the Mavs want to make a win-now play. I wouldn’t be shocked if Lee wound up in Memphis again.
If the Bucks are looking to beef up their rotation, Ilyasova is a natural candidate to go elsewhere, given his $7 million salary and his fully non-guaranteed 2020-21 season. The flip side of that is that he has been one of Milwaukee’s more efficient offensive players.